On December 5th, representatives from 49 states attended the National Summit to Advance States’ Criminal Justice Priorities, a 2-day conference examining the past 17 years of criminal justice system analysis and policy development to improve public safety and support communities and individuals impacted by the justice system. The event was launched by six organizations – the Crime and Justice Institute (CJI), The Council of State Governments Justice Center, CNA, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Arnold Ventures, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and brought together organizations and individuals directly involved in supporting these efforts over nearly a 20-year period. 

More than 420 attendees assembled in Atlanta to collaborate with stakeholders from their state and with leaders across the country to advance successful, sustainable change. The Justice Reinvestment Initiatives (JRI) was a primary focus of the conference as a vehicle for data-driven, evidence-based problem solving at the state and local level. State leaders—governors, legislators, and agency officials—play a critical role in ensuring public safety by setting priorities, identifying policies and programs to achieve them, and allocating finite resources that impact every area of the justice system. Topics included recidivism, policy assessment, attracting and retaining staff, building community trust, trends in crime and incarceration, diversion programs, behavioral health, and much more. 

In her opening remarks, Amy Solomon, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice, emphasized the valuable impact of so many states and state leaders being able to gather for the National Summit. “This is JRI in action. And a key benefit of coming together in this way is to give you space – away from the day to day demands and pressures you face at home – to really think and talk together and chart the next chapter for your state.” 

Of the many sessions, two of the best received encompassed the full range of the criminal justice system. In his keynote speech, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt spoke at length about his state’s positive experience with JRI and the impact of data-driven initiatives and decision-making. In the first evening’s dinner speech, Sam Lewis, Executive Director of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, charted his personal journey as someone who was serving a life sentence in prison and chose a path focusing on education and rehabilitation for individuals in prison and those reentering their communities.  

“The National Summit has been a transformative experience for many people who attended,” says Colby Dawley, Deputy Director for CJI. “The outpouring of positive feedback shows how motivated everyone is by the excellent work being done in our communities and the drive to be a part of that change themselves.” 

CJI looks forward to supporting new and continued partnerships with state leaders interested in advancing proven criminal justice strategies. For more information about the National Summit or JRI, contact press@cjinstitute.org   

To learn more about the summit sessions and highlights, follow CJI’s Summit Recap Series on social media: 


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Read the complete agenda of events here.